Survey Suggests Truck Buyers Growing Less Satisfied

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
survey suggests truck buyers growing less satisfied

It used to be that, if you were a “Ford Truck Man,” that’s all you drove. In fact, this author and his friends used to frequently quote the Toby Keith classic anytime someone exhibited an overabundance of brand loyalty. The borderline hysterical ad includes a scene with Keith hitchhiking through the desert, refusing rides from anything that lacks a blue oval on the grille. Hyperbolic for sure, but it kind of felt like that’s how people shopped for trucks back then.

Plenty of people still shop for a new pickups in this manner but, according to a recent survey, buyers are becoming increasingly less loyal as truck prices continue to climb.

Average transaction prices have increased steadily across the board, settling in around $36,000 in the United States, but pickup prices aren’t representative of the national average. Your average U.S. pickup retails for roughly $48,500. While you can absolutely get them for less, optioning anything other than a regular cab with the base engine will push you well over the $30,000 mark.

CarGurus recently conducted a survey of 1,067 current and former pickup owners. The general consensus? Trucks aren’t a good value and have begun to suffer in terms of overall quality. In fact, 68 percent of surveyed owners said their own vehicle was overpriced. While this certainly hasn’t destroyed the segment (the very notion is laughable), 17 percent of respondents claimed they probably wouldn’t buy another pickup.

While 24 percent cited overly ambitious pricing as their main reason for ditching trucks, 42 percent claimed fuel efficiency was the main reason for the promised swap. Among former pickup owners who have already moved onto another type of vehicle, 37 percent now drive an SUV or crossover, with 35 percent selecting the tried-and-true sedan.

The Detroit Free Press reached out to Madison Gross, director of consumer insights at CarGurus, to see if more could be gleaned from the metrics. “What an interesting finding in that study,” Gross said. “What we see as the top reasons people are switching categories is that trucks have poor fuel efficiency and they’re high cost. Switching into a large SUV might not make as much sense as a sedan.”

Gross also said shoppers are less inclined to stick with their current brand, though the data provided wasn’t enough for us to agree without a caveat. The study showed that 70 percent of truck buyers would consider swapping brands if their preferred make “increased prices by $10,000.” It’s a fairly modest increase over last year’s 64 percent and could potentially be attributed to a reasonable margin of error. But it’s also phrased in a way that makes it difficult to disagree with. Gross elaborated further.

“Year-over-year, there wasn’t much of a change at the $5,000 threshold, but at $10,000 it got really interesting,” she said. “We’ve seen truck makers widen the audience they’re seeking for the truck. In the past it was mostly for a working or commercial buyer. Now people drive it in daily life. So the change in loyalty to a brand also is impacted by that.”

Toyota owners stood out as having the most loyal customers, with 40 percent saying they would not buy another brand’s pickup. Domestic nameplates were closer together, with about a quarter of their existing clientele saying they’d at least consider switching brands. Ford was the most common choice, edging out its rivals by a few percentage points. Meanwhile, Ford owners were slightly more likely to choose Ram in the event of a nameplate swap.

[Images: Ford; FCA; General Motors]

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  • DenverMike DenverMike on Mar 30, 2019

    Roughly half the "buyers" were FORMER pickup owners. Wut? "Survey" results were predetermined beforehand, and they set out to prove the headline with a ridiculous premise. If they had more "former" pickup owners than current owners, wouldn't they have to change the headline to: "Survey Suggests Truck Sellers Are Growing Less Satisfied..."?

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Apr 01, 2019

    As a latecomer to the urban cowboy party, I'd say it's the expanding demographic of the truck market that's causing both the prices to rise and the owner satisfaction scores to normalize. Truck salesmen of today have a lot in common with Harley Davidson salesmen of 5-10 years ago. They believe that recent sales trends will last forever, and their heads practically explode when anyone comparison shops. We'll see how long that lasts.

  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..